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Rib Dysfunction

Ribs are attached to the vertebrae at the back and to the sternum at the front. The ribs provide the movement required for breathing and also provide attachment for muscles of the back, shoulder girdle, neck and the abdominals. The joints at the back are complex with most ribs having 3 articulations with the vertebrae. This renders them liable to dysfunction, often getting fixed during inspiration, in their elevated position. This can then irritate the intercostal nerve which follows the course of the rib.

Rib dysfunctions usually present in the following ways.
  • Pain in the back, slightly to one side
  • Pain in the back and front, feeling like a skewer
  • Pain following a rib
The pain is usually worse on taking a deep breath or coughing. People often find they have very tender 'knots' between the shoulder blades - these are usually rib dysfunctions and massage to them will make them sore. They are an extremely common problem that an Osteopath will see every day. They can be treated very effectively by manipulation and articulation of the ribs and also the thoracic spine.

Acute rib dysfunctions are some of the most painful conditions that an osteopath can see with the patient usually in a high state of anxiety, as every breath that they take is extremely painful. This makes them more anxious resulting in a vicious circle. The site of pain, on the chest wall, also makes the patient anxious that something more serious is happening. In these cases, after establishing that the pain is of musculoskeletal origin, the best solution is early manipulation of the dysfunctional ribs to quickly bring about some pain relief to break the vicious circle.

Hitchin Osteopathic Clinic, Old Park Dental Surgery, 72 Old Park Road, Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 2JT 01462 432609